Bromsgrove Arts News

  • Sun 12 Apr 2020

    AN Easter service will be streamed on YouTube by Bromsgrove’s St John’s Church.

    The service will take place at 10.45am on Easter Sunday, led by Rev Ray Khan.

    The traditional service is being streamed as COVID-19 lockdown restrictions mean no public services can be held in person following the Church of England’s decision  to stop coronavirus spreading.

    Click here for the church’s event Facebook page where the YouTube link will be posted.

    Click here to go straight to the St John’s Church YouTube channel where the service will be, along with all its other Holy Week services.

    Reprinted by kind permission of The Bromsgrove Standard

  • Thu 9 Apr 2020

    A BROMSGROVE man whose passion for music led to him inspiring thousands of students has died after being admitted to hospital with coronavirus.

    Bernard David Hall-Mancey, who passed away last Thursday at the age of 77, was the musical director at Bromsgrove School from 1975 to 1987 and gave many pupils opportunities they would not have otherwise had.

    Many students had no musical background and he even gave their parents the chance to sing in choral works.

    Pupils he met later in life said their experience of participating in singing sparked a love of music in them and some pursued a career in the field.

    In a statement his family said: “Bernard was one of the kindest and generous people you could wish to meet.

    “He got along with everyone, no matter their station in life, and had the ability to light up a room with his wit and anecdotes, often accompanied by hilarious impressions.

    “He was adored and loved by his family, his wide circle of friends and numerous past students, many of whom had stayed in touch with Bernard some 40 years after being taught by him.

    “He is very much missed by all who knew him and the world has lost a true gentleman.”

    In later years he gave his time freely to help at Bromsgrove School, adjudicating on music competitions and accompanying staff and students on many cathedral trips with the chapel choir. Many students sought his advice at the end of those concerts or trips.

    Bernard was also hugely supportive of the orchestral and chamber concerts and remained actively engaged in music within the Bromsgrove community.

    He was a very enthusiastic supporter of Bromsgrove’s Orchestra of St John and joined its committee as a valued and hugely knowledgeable contributor.

    And he assisted the David Morgan Trust, a body set up to help young musicians in the Bromsgrove and Worcester area and he was also the secretary, right up until his untimely passing, of Bromsgrove Concerts.

    His early life

    Bernard was born in Early near Reading in 1942.

    He attended Earley Grammar School and it was while he was in sixth-form his love of music developed.

    Bernard graduated from the Royal College of Music as an Associate with an ARCM diploma as well as holding the GRSM, Graduate of the Royal Schools of Music qualification.

    This provided him with a high level honours degree in music and he also graduated to be an Associate of the Royal College of Organists.

    During the weekends, he would travel back from London to Reading to support local music organisations and in his final year he took up the temporary post of choir master and organist for Trinity Methodist Church.

    After attaining his degree, Bernard went on to Birmingham University where he gained his DipEd teaching qualification.

    His first job as a music teacher was at Fitzharrys School in Abingdon in 1965.

    The following year he moved to Abingdon School where he created the junior choral society and brought them up to a particularly high standard which was reflected in two excellent operatic performances of Britten’s Golden Vanity and Rodney Bennett’s All the King’s Men.

    He also ran the senior orchestra and as the school was linked with St Helen’s church, Bernard was also the choir master and organist at the church. In 1968, a service with Bernard conducting was broadcast from St Helen’s on Radio 4.

    Using his considerable music talents, he also formed the Corallian Singers group which received rave reviews.

    On leaving Abingdon, his fellow staff members reflected on Bernard’s ability to enthuse all ages and especially to guide those going through the first hurdles of piano playing.

    In 1972 Bernard took up the post of Director of Music at Hinchingbrooke School where he also received tuition in conducting from Sir Adrian Boult (whom he had met during his studies at the RCM). That would hold him in good stead throughout his life.

    He used his skills to conduct the Huntingdonshire Choral Society and Orchestra, as well as serving as a committee member on the Huntingdonshire Music Society.

    Songs of Praise pioneer

    A particular high note in 1973 was Bernard’s appearance as the conductor and choir master of the first trial of a new format for the TV programme Songs of Praise from Godmanchester.

    Bernard ensured that the trial was a success which led to it being commissioned in full by the BBC to be presented in the programme format we know today.

    After Bromsgrove School

    Following his departure from Bromsgrove School in 1987, Bernard became a full-time examiner.

    His travels took him all over the world, including Malaysia, Indonesia, the Caribbean, Canada, USA, Japan, Europe, Ireland and the UK.

    He relished his trips abroad, not only helping thousands of children to develop their music skills and qualifications but making friends wherever he went. Many remember him as cutting a very distinguished figure with smart jet black hair and neat beard.

    Eventually he became a co-ordinator for the Board and, before retiring, was involved in training ABRSM examiners as part of a scheme that ran in the 1990s. He would spend many hours regaling all of his hilarious stories and experiences whilst working abroad.

    Bernard gained a great deal of satisfaction in giving back through the generosity of his time, experience and knowledge.

    He is survived by his daughters Susan and Gillian, their husbands Elliot and Mark and his grandchildren Tom, Eleanor, Edward, Robyn and George.

  • Thu 9 Apr 2020

    RENOWNED comedians Marcus Brigstocke and Hal Cruttenden and Dodgy frontman Nigel Clark were among those taking to social media to express their sadness about Artrix’s demise.

    And organisers of classical music and literary events have written into the Standard – illustrating the widespread appeal of the centre.

    Brigstocke, who has made TV appearances on Have I Got News for You and Live at the Apollo, wrote on Twitter: “An absolute tragedy.

    “Such a great example of brilliant local theatre.

    “Offered loads of great and varied nights out for people in Bromsgrove and a great place for the likes of me to play.

    “Very sad indeed.”

    Fellow stand-up star and TV comic Cruttenden also tweeted his affection for the venue.

    “So sad about this – I used to sell well here when I never sold that well anywhere else.

    “Lovely lovely staff and a middle England audience that veered nicely between laughter and disapproval at the political stuff.

    “Bromsgrove Artrix must rise again!”

    Clark, who ended up performing the last gig there, tweeted: “It’s such a shame, we had some great gigs there the crew and everyone that worked there were great. Sad day.”

    Musician Daniel Trigger was one of many who have written us letters this week.

    He said he had many happy memories of performing at Artrix with his band Trigger and of attending shows, and watching films.

    “Artrix is critical to Bromsgrove as it provides a central hub for all of the local performing arts, while also offering an essential source of joy and entertainment to the community.

    “We can’t accept the closure of the Artrix.”

    Former Bromsgrove Arts Alive chairman Jim Page has organised classical music events since its opening, including weekends of complete Beethoven and Shostakovich quartets which attracted audiences from across the country.

    He said: “Ever since Artrix opened – with a classic design by architect Glenn Howells – it has been at the heart of the cultural life of Bromsgrove and with a wide variety of shows it has catered for all tastes in the community.

    “It proved the ideal venue as with excellent acoustics and sightlines it pleased both audiences and performers.”

    Historian and arts champion Jennie McGregor-Smith said Artrix had provided so much for the town in the last 15 years adding, although its financial struggles were well-documented, it going it ceasing trading was a shock.

    She said Howell’s design had seen the auditorium boast the best acoustics in the whole of Worcestershire and praised it for the multitude of activities it had hosted – from local and professional drama and all kinds of music to jewellery making, belly dancing, ballet art exhibitions and cinema screenings.

    “Bromsgrove people fought for many years to get an arts centre here.

    “We mustn’t let it disappear.”

    Margaret Evans, a member of WORDS which put on literary events at the venue, said she was ‘dismayed’ at the closure, calling Artrix a ‘jewel in Bromsgrove’ and praising its friendly helpful staff and team of volunteers.

    She added it offered versatile entertainment and education groups, meant locals did not have to travel to other towns and cities but it also drew people to Bromsgrove from other areas.

    “Where will groups gather for recreation and culture now?

    “The number of suitable concert and sports halls has reduced drastically.

    “The old college on Burcot Lane had the Spadesbourne Suite where concerts took place before the Artrix was campaigned for by local residents and the Dolphin Centre Sports Hall was demolished recently where sports groups regularly met.

    “Please where are we to go, and what are we to do in our spare time now?”

  • Tue 7 Apr 2020

    BROMSGROVE’S Artrix has announced it has ceased training from today, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as the main reason.

    The charity said it had been in talks with senior officers from Bromsgrove District Council which leases the building to it since last year.

    A variety of options were being looked at to secure financial investment but bosses said the impact of coronavirus on its fragile recovery means it must stop trading from today or it would be doing so illegally.

    Angela Galvin, Director of Artrix, said: “This is devastating news for the whole amazing Artrix family – our small but mighty team of paid staff who are losing the jobs to which they have dedicated themselves with such passion and vigour for so long, and our wonderful volunteers who have given thousands of hours to supporting our work, because they believe in what Artrix stands for.

    “We thank our staff and volunteers for everything.

    “Our hearts also go out to those who have bought tickets and made donations, the social and family groups, the carers, the artists, the workshop leaders and participants, and the local businesses who are part of the Artrix family and who will all feel the impact of our closure.

    “Over the past 15 years we have shown there is a need for an arts centre in Bromsgrove, the need is still there, the good will is still there.

    “We sincerely believe that when this extraordinary situation is over an arts centre for Bromsgrove will rise again.”

    Bromsgrove District Council leader Coun Karen May said: “As leader of the council and, on a personal note, I am deeply saddened by this news.

    “Over the last few months we have worked tirelessly with the Artrix trustees to try and identify a way of securing the long-term sustainability of the facility by considering funding, grant and alternative business planning opportunities.

    “Unfortunately the finances were already by then in a fragile state and their recent closure, due to the coronavirus pandemic, unfortunately left them with no option but insolvency.

    “As leaseholders of the building we are currently working with our legal team and the trustees over the short-term future of the building before we consider any long-term solutions.”

    Portfolio holder for Leisure and Cultural Services, Coun Phil Thomas, added: “Despite this news, which I know will impact on a lot of residents and visitors to the District who enjoyed this facility, we will continue to work with our partners to ensure there is an arts provision in Bromsgrove.”

    In September visitor numbers were hit when cashless car parking charges were introduced by HoW College which owns the car park next to the venue.

    A full statement from the board of directors

    The board of Artrix has been closely monitoring the charity’s finances since April 2018, when our funding model changed significantly.

    Through a series of changes to our structure and business, with the tremendous hard work of our team and loyalty of our community, we managed to work through the first year without grant funding, and watched our income from other sources grow to a point where the prospect of survival and development became a reality.

    In recent months we have been in positive dialogue with Bromsgrove District Council about our lease, and the possibility of future financial investment.

    This fragile recovery has been cut off by COVID-19.

    On Government recommendation we closed our building on March 16.

    Our daily income dropped to zero from 17 March. Our outgoings have not.

    We have been unable to access Government support in the form of grants or loans as we do not meet the eligibility criteria.

    We, like many other venues, have been unable to claim against our business interruption insurance because insurers are not recognising COVID-19 on their list of notifiable diseases.

    18 of team Artrix are now on furlough through the Government’s Job Retention Scheme.

  • Tue 7 Apr 2020

    RUBERY writer, poet, musician and singer Spoz has spoken of his devastation at Artrix ceasing trading.

    And the 55-year-old former Birmingham Poet Laureate has called for a steering group to be set up to secure the long-term future of the venue as soon as the Government’s COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted.

    He said: “I remember Artrix when it first opened – I was showed around it by then director Andy Woods two weeks before the launch and I thought it was absolutely fantastic – just what Bromsgrove needed.

    “At the time I had just been made redundant from MG Rover and an arts centre popped up in the area I live in – it was almost like fate as I had already decided I wanted to do something with the arts for the next stage of my life.

    “I have always seen my life as being split up into three chapters – the first was school, the second was work and the third is the arts.

    “Artrix has been such a big part of that third chapter and I have done so much over the years there and seen so many acts.”

    Spoz was present at what turned out to be the centre’s final gig – a BritPop revival night involving Nigel Clark from Dodgy, Chris Helme of The Seahorses and Mark Morriss of The Bluetones.

    Speaking about his hope for a future for the centre he said: “As soon as this (COVID-19 restrictions) is all over we need to set up a steering group with members of Bromsgrove arts and theatre groups, council representatives and other interested parties and I will definitely want to be part of taking it forward.

    “We have to come up with a rescue plan.”

    He added the council could take control as happens with Redditch’s Palace Theatre and said MP Sajid Javid had a role to play, although he was quick to point out his view that politics should not be directly involved in art.

    “That would be the last thing we’d want – the problem is very often a lot of things in life are about making money but the arts is the exception – it is there for people’s enjoyment.

    “When Artrix opened there would be a number of gigs and shows that would make the centre a lot of money and then that would be used to fund the other elements, such as the not so popular shows and community projects.

    “The building must stay as a theatre and arts centre as back when it was built it was just what Bromsgrove needed and it will be so again when the coronavirus pandemic is over.”

    For Artrix’s tenth birthday, Spoz penned the poem below about what Artrix meant to him.

    What Does the Artrix Mean to Me?

    A life line –

    When that buoyancy aid called Rover sank,

    A hand called the Artrix dragged me back to the river bank.

    When I just couldn’t see the Andy Woods from the trees,

    Together with Bev, they got me up off my knees,

    No guarantees, just a place with some freedom

    And some words of advice, should I ever need ‘em.

    No more the small guy, like Ronnie Corbett

    Around planet Artrix – I set my orbit.

    An artistic haven –

    With funding shaven to a hair past bare minimum,

    Though it’s starting to grow back.

    They took some flak in those opening two years,

    As rallying calls were falling on deaf ears.

    That best kept secret that we were dying to spill,

    What was lacking in resources, was made up in will.

    As the blinkered cynics, who’s “arts” weren’t in it cried “fail!”

    We always knew our “arts” would prevail.

    A home from home –

    From the silver foxes to the fountains of youth,

    Drop by any time if you’re looking for proof.

    Providing your pleasure is never a chore

    And there’s a wealth of knowledge with the college next door.

    An open mind –

    From the biggest names to the unknown “Joe”

    If you’ve got an idea, Artrix gives it a go

    An opportunity to grow, to showcase your skill

    From young people’s theatre to beats from Brazil

    The thrill of an audience’s appreciation

    The Artrix is … an inspiration.

  • Sun 5 Apr 2020

    BROMSGROVE’S Avoncroft Museum has made a desperate plea to residents to help ensure its long-term future.

    The venue closed its doors ten days ago because of the COVID-19 pandemic and bosses said because of the loss in revenue the museum needed its supporters’ help more than ever.

    “We all wondered how long these extraordinary times would go on as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak.

    “The Covid-19 pandemic is a tragedy against which the uncertain future of one museum in Worcestershire seemed a small matter, however passionately we care about it.

    “In the event, we have been bowled over by the messages of support from friends and supporters in the community who look forward to us reopening, as do we all.”

    The message, posted on Avoncroft’s website, thanked everyone for their messages, adding they were ‘really appreciated’.

    “Avoncroft Museum is not only a nationally important collection of historic buildings, it represents the collective memory of Midlands communities and our relationship with the built environment over time.

    “In uncertain times, people need more than ever to cling onto that sense of shared identity, to believe in ourselves as a community and to care for each other.”

    The venue needs to cover its expenditure while it is closed and, although Avoncroft has radically cut its costs, it makes well over half its income from admissions and events.

    “Without that money, we are likely to be on shaky ground.”

    Trustees and a small new team of core staff are currently trying to establish which of the Government streams of support are open to them and what effect it will have on the budget.

    A second problem is that reserves will be severely depleted by the time it is able to re-open.

    “We will need a more major injection of funds before that point.

    “We are applying for major grants as we speak.

    “We can’t wait until we reopen and we look forward to seeing you all.”

    Museum bosses say if each person reading their appeal contributed £5 each it would make a massive difference to the problems being faced.

    Anyone wanting to pledge cash can visit the donation page.

    Make a donation

    Alternatively, send a cheque, payable to ‘Avoncroft Museum’ to Avoncroft Museum, Stoke Heath, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, B60 4JR

    Email collections [at] avoncroft [dot] org [dot] uk for more information.

  • Fri 20 Mar 2020

    AVONCROFT Museum is shut until further notice.

    It follows the advice from the Government earlier this evening.

    Up until today, because it is primarily an outdoor venue, it was open and, while all events were cancelled, mums were due to go free on Sunday for Mother’s Day.

    But, in a statement released tonight, acting deputy director Nick Sturgess said: “Owing to the ongoing Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic and our absolute desire to keep the public, our staff and our volunteers safe, we have sadly had to take the difficult decision to temporarily close Avoncroft Museum to visitors from today until at least April 30, 2020.

    He added the safety of those who visited, worked and volunteered at the museum had always been a priority.

    “We had already cancelled our Easter events, but now that we will be closed to the end of April, sadly our Medieval St George’s Day event will also no longer take place.

    “We will use this period to introduce and develop new events and even more reasons for you to visit Avoncroft once we re-open.”

    He urged people to keep an eye on the museum’s social media for more information as it became available.

    “As an independent museum and charity this has not been an easy decision and everyone at the museum thanks you for your continued support and understanding during these difficult times. It means a lot to us.

    “We will be keeping in touch with you through our social media pages and here on our website and we look forward to welcoming you back to the Museum later in 2020.”

  • Fri 20 Mar 2020

    THE STREET Party which was due to be held on May 10 for all the town to come together to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day has been postponed until next year.

    The event was being organised by Jules Evans in conjunction with the town’s Royal British Legion and £17,000 worth of funding was already in place to hold ‘the biggest street party Bromsgrove had ever seen’.

    The fuinding is all safe for next year and all suppliers have agreed to freeze their prices.

    But, after the advice about large gatherings on Monday and meetings between the organisers and the council, the decision was taken to put it off until May 9, 2021.

    Jules said whilst it was disappointing the most important thing was people’s health and wellbeing, especially the elderly and vulnerable which included veterans.

    “I would like to thank everyone for the huge amount of support we have received over the past few months.

    “Unfortunately I think this situation will get worse before it gets better so it is important we all stay safe.

    “As a community we can get through this and we will look forward to our VE Day Street Party next May.”

  • Thu 12 Mar 2020

    CHILDREN from Play Days Active Kids Group in Rednal shared stories with their ‘grown-ups’ as part of their World Book Day celebrations and were presented with certificates.

    The over twos joined dots to make a spider whilst learning the second verse of Incy Wincy Spider, which was written on their drawing.

    They enjoyed also enjoyed a PJ Masks hunt, having to find the three different coloured characters from the story.

    And they brought in their favourite books from home to show their friends.

    They were part of a host of activities held at St Stephen’s Church, where the group is based, to encourage youngsters to enjoy reading and books.

    Reprinted by kind permission of The Bromsgove Standard

  • Wed 11 Mar 2020

    COMMUNITY groups are being urged to apply for their share of £100,000 worth of funding to celebrate community spirit in the West Midlands.

    The Mayor’s Community Weekend, which has proved successful in the last two years, is on Saturday and Sunday, July 4 and 5, this year and it is hoped there will be more than 200 celebratory events throughout the region.

    The cash has been made possible thanks to a partnership between the West Midlands Combined Authority and The National Lottery Community Fund.

    Grants of up to £500 will be on offer to groups across the region including Worcestershire and Birmingham.

    The aim of the Mayor’s Community Weekend is to bring people and communities together, to celebrate the experiences they share and make new memories.

    It will encourage people from all walks of life to build stronger community bonds and embrace community spirit by holding events such as a street party, a sports festival or a picnic in the park.

    Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said the community weekend had been a real highlight of his term and he was delighted funding for events in 2020 had been secured to keep the scheme going.

    “From street parties to pop-up sports games, neighbourhoods across the region always take full advantage of the Mayor’s Community Weekend, and I believe it is a great example of the creativity and togetherness that the West Midlands possesses.”

    Funding applications opened on Monday and close at 9pm on March 22.

    Visit tnlcommunityfund.org.uk/funding/programmes/mayors-community-weekend and www.wmca.org.uk/MCW for more information and to apply.

    Reprinted by kind permission of The Bromsgrove Standard